— By Jamie Johnson —
Seven energy-saving changes businesses can make to save on energy costs.
Operating a business has various costs, some we have control over and some that we don’t. In my business, I love the costs that directly contribute to sales and new revenue, and I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about those fixed costs to keep the lights on.
Ironically, we focus on helping our clients reduce energy costs, and we love clients who have 24/7 operating hours. Businesses with 24/7 operations have 2-3 times the returns that a normal business might enjoy, just based on more hours of usage. (Of course, they usually have 2-3 times the wear and tear on their normal equipment, but that’s for a different article.)
Here are seven energy-saving changes businesses can make:
- HVAC Maintenance
While obvious, this is not commonly executed well. Since businesses often are in leased spaces, they rarely take care of their HVAC equipment. Equipment that is not maintained well will not perform efficiently. Think of a car with low air in its tires, or a dirty air filter, not getting the best MPG possible. Same goes for an HVAC system — those dirty air filters and debris on the air compressor coils will decrease the efficiency.
Another reason HVAC maintenace is important is this simple fact: modern units do not last as long as they used to. Ten years can be a good lifespan on a commercial HVAC unit, and proper maintenance can keep those units running much longer.
- Sensors on Lights
As you can see, lights have changed a lot over the years. However, sensors are the unsung heroes that you cannot see. The average fast food chain has a back room storage area with around six light fixtures. Those fixtures are typically on all the time, although someone is back there less than 25% of the time. Adding sensors to that area would save over 3,800 kWh annually, which would save anywhere from $300 to $900 depending on your local electricity rate.
LED lights are far more efficient and are important for several reasons. First, sensors can have “daylight harvesting,” which basically dims your light fixtures based on the natural daylight available from windows. While it saves incremental amounts of energy, it reduces the heat on the driver when dimmed or off, preserving the lifetime of the system. This adds life to an already incredibly long life system.
- Smart Thermostats
You’ve heard of a Nest and other smart gadgets out there, but how can your business benefit from smart devices? It comes down to one word: control. A smart thermostat gives you the control to run your system when you need it, instead of all the time. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a franchise owner’s eyes light up when I describe a smart thermostat and the benefits they will enjoy.
Instead of a temperature that is set in reaction to every cold employee or client complaint, a smart thermostat is controlled by a smart algorithm. Even better, the smart thermostat can be locked out, so not just anyone can change it. It can send notifications when the system has errors, and can determine occupancy to help drive temperature changes.
In the modern world, we can’t afford to have clients or staff uncomfortable in our place of business. However, I contend that the times our businesses are closed, we also can’t afford to waste energy by heating or cooling that space too much.
- Door Vestibules
Here is another way that saves energy and client comfort as well. Ever sit in a restaurant or a café on a cold day and had the cold air rush in every time someone came or went? Did you want to go back there again? Probably not.
Not only does that cold air represent a loss of energy usage, it also represents customers who will not come back. While the cold air can represent an imbalance of your business HVAC system, creating a vacuum or draft, the cold air drafts (and wasted energy) can be fixed with a door vestibule. While the air imbalance needs to ultimately be addressed, the door vestibule can create additional benefit of added visibility of your business.
Weatherstripping is incredibly hard to do perfectly, but it is hard to do wrong. There are so many inexpensive strips that can save a ton in energy waste, and again, result in fewer drafts for your business.
- Proactive Maintenance
Most of us run our business in reactive mode — putting out spot fires when we need to. However, the truly great business leaders are proactive and get ahead of these issues. If you stay on your maintenance, you also see opportunities to proactively replace equipment.
This is so important because reactive replacement of equipment requires what is on the shelf of your distributor, which is the commonly used items that have been around forever and are inefficient. High-efficiency equipment can take 2 or 3 months to come in, so you need careful planning and budgeting.
However, if you do this right, you will also be in a position to research utility rebates, which often make high-efficiency equipment more cost-effective than standard replacement.
- EC Motors and Variable Speed Motors
Back in the ‘90s, EC motors for walk-in refrigeration was a new technology and promised energy saving for grocery stores. But there were problems along the way, and even to this day, EC motors are not common in larger grocery chains.
We have replaced thousands of EC motors in fast food restaurants, with tons of energy-saving benefits. Variable speed motors can also work well with many HVAC systems, especially when code requires fans to run 24 hours at a time. While these modern advances are not perfect, we find they have fewer problems than standard motors. It is important to explore these new technologies. There are plenty of good service providers out there — be sure to find one that will work to help you reduce your energy, because your business’s survival may depend on that partnership.
— Jamie Johnson founded Verde Energy Efficiency Experts in 2010 with the mission to find and implement energy efficiency savings for customers in unexpected places within their business. Verde continues to grow its diverse offerings to businesses in order to provide solutions to lower operating costs and improve their triple bottom line. For more information, visit https://www.verde.expert/.